Even before the Colonel arrived at Fort Leonard Wood, rumors had been flying around about the new commanding officer with the imposing name. Why was he leaving a position in France for an unusual nine-month assignment in the hills of Missouri? He must be tough because he had trained as a ranger and paratrooper. Fresh out of West Point, he had seen combat, commanding an infantry battalion in Korea. Someone must have felt he had potential because he was next assigned to a General, serving as his aide, not for a typical two-year tour of duty, but for an unusual eight consecutive years in Paris. He must have been on the fast track for something special. Why did I care? He was to be my new boss! To say the least, I was worried.
Standing over six feet six, the Colonel was trim and wiry, looking more like a professional basketball player than a professional Army officer. Rather than being cold and domineering, as I had expected, he was quiet, closed mouth, and unexpectedly gentle, more like a father figure than a commanding officer. After some preliminaries, he looked straight in my eye explaining what he expected from me. I was to serve as his administrative assistant, writing his letters, placing calls for him to Army headquarters on and off base, and keeping him abreast of activities in the battalion. My work was not easy in a battalion of 2,000 men – planning meetings, keeping track of those who were sick and AWOL, and following the activities of the troops in the field.
Over the next few months, as we got to know each other much better, everyday occurrences deepened the mystery around him. Little things aroused my curiosity. For example, whenever I asked him the time of day, I found that his watch was always set two hours ahead of Missouri time. When asked if his watch was broken, he smiled sheepishly but said nothing. Then there were those mysterious absences on weekends. The rumor was that he hopped an Army plane on most Friday nights, flew to a known destination for the weekend and returned late on Sunday evenings. Where was he? Was he meeting someone clandestinely? When questioned about his weekend activities, he smiled and walked away. Although most of his requests of me were routine, at least weekly he asked me to dial a number at the Pentagon or to a general somewhere around the country. When I reached the party, I walked to his office door, alerted him, and closed the door as he always requested.
By the time the Colonel was to leave for his next assignment, he had enough confidence in me that he voluntarily explained some but not all of the mysteries. You see Grover Asmus was an ambitious career officer whose goal was the star, to become a general, and he knew that Lieutenant Colonels don’t become Colonels or Lieutenant Generals without doing some politicking. He had to know the people who would be writing his evaluations and the better he knew them, the better his chance of promotion. Hence, all the calls across the country, all the opportunities for meeting his evaluators face-to-face during those weekend absences. He must have successful because he became a full bird Colonel when he took his next position in New York.
But perhaps the biggest mystery was only solved when I saw his picture on the cover of Variety, the newspaper for show business, with his arm around his new fiancée the star of the popular 60s television program, “The Donna Reed Show.” Although he retired from the Army before he became a General, he did get his star. He married one.
Karl K. Taylor